Wednesday afternoon, Christi and I (along with my awesomesauce mother) were given the greatest opportunity to listen to the amazing Patty Duke speak.
Her story was similar to all of ours … sleeping for hours on end, suicide attempts, hospitalizations, misdiagnoses … and of course, no real diagnosis until that illusive manic episode tipped the scale. Oh yeah, and then there’s that little thing that made her story a bit different than ours; she suffered from this illness in front of the Hollywood Spotlight.
I don’t know about you guys, but I find it difficult enough just trying to put on that mask in front of family, friends, and coworkers. I can’t even imagine keeping up the image of a mentally healthy woman in front of millions of fans and Hollywood Critics. The thought sends butterflies into my stomach.
Still, this amazing woman got it done. She got help and treatment and then despite the advice NOT to tell the public, she walked out of our crowded Bipolar Closet with her head held high and set off on a journey to educate the world about mental illness. She made it easier for future celebrities to admit to their imperfections.
But most of that stuff everyone knows or at the very least assumed. The thing that really got to me was her every day, non celebrity, single mom, typical bipolar story. When I heard her talk about the things she put her children through, the mistakes she made, and how she was able to rise above it and earn their forgiveness. That was the part that caused me to connect to her in such a personal way.
I’m not going to lie. There are times where I am just an awful mother. I bring the kids home from school, head to my room and just ignore them. They’ll fight, they’ll do everything but their chores, they’ll come to me crying and what do I do. I yell. I tell them to take care of it on their own. They are 6, 8, and 10 … how can I possibly expect them to handle it themselves!?!?! But when I’m low and in my hole, I do it anyway.
The fortunate part is, they still love me.
And Patty’s … oh, let’s just call her Anna. After all, that is her name. Well, Anna’s children, they love her too, despite her illness, despite her faults, despite her moments of poor parenting. They love her. As does her husband, her family and her friends.
And the best part is, we can have all that too. Well maybe not the fame and such, but the love. Just because we have Bipolar and/or other mental illness, Anna reminded me that I am still worth loving. She reminded me that one person can make a difference in bringing awareness. She reminded me that there ARE benefits of having a mental illness. And I’m proud of mine. My Bipolar may not define me, but it has made me who I am.
Okay … so you’re probably wondering where is the crying part? This is the part that is so absolutely silly and ridiculous (slightly embarrassing even). So, before the presentation I introduced myself to the woman heading up the event, was SURE I was going to meet this amazing woman. The presentation ended and Anna walked right out of the room. When I talked to the woman in charge, she said Anna had had a very long day and probably just wasn’t up to anymore for the day.
And THAT is the point where I got all choked up. I had heard an amazing woman share her story, I felt connected to her, and now … I wasn’t going to meet her. It had nothing to do with her fame or celebrity status. It had to do with how much I related to her. she inspired me. And my hopes of meeting her were squashed. So I had to fight to NOT start crying.
So I sulked my way out of the conference room. Dragged my feet all the way to this HUGE mob of people. And who were they surrounding. Anna/Patty Duke! No longer disappointment, nope … now I was insanely nervous. I was dragging my feet in a whole new way. But not my mom. Oh no, Ann pushed her way through the crowd and the next thing I know she’s hugging Anna and grabbing my arm saying, “You have to meet my daughter!”
Unfortunately I didn’t get a whole lot of time to talk to her, even though I was full of questions. But I still got this …
So no more tears. Happiness ensued and I was left with the MOST AMAZING experience ever. Not gonna brag or anything, but um … I hugged Patty Duke. Just saying.
So, although I wasn’t able to ask her my million questions, they are still there. Sigh …
What about you? If you could ask her anything, what would you ask?